The cost of holding up traffic |

The cost of holding up traffic


SUMMIT COUNTY – Drivers stuck behind a long line of cars awaiting passage through construction zones won’t be seeing light at the end of the tunnel anytime soon.

A two-year analysis by the Colorado Department of Transportation has determined it’s more expensive to conduct paving operations at night rather than in the day. Schedules for paving projects are determined largely by traffic volumes and the impacts to surrounding communities and residents. The analysis was conducted to identify cost savings.

CDOT officials examined 28 asphalt projects, nine of which were conducted at night.

The nine nighttime projects cost CDOT an additional $2.2 million to build compared to similar projects done in the day. This is largely due to the additional cost of safety equipment and the shift pay differential. On the other hand, paving in the daytime is estimated to cost the public $221 million in travel delays.

Daytime advantages include lower prices due to less equipment, longer paving season due to higher temperatures, less noise and a higher-quality project. Advantages to conducting work at night include a reduced impact to travelers, cooler temperatures, which are less stressful for workers, pavement cooling quicker so paving can continue closer to the time the road reopens.

Disadvantages for daytime work include heavy traffic delays, limited work hours, delays for equipment due to traffic tie-ups and possible damage to new pavement due to a lack of cooling time. Disadvantages in the nighttime include the need for additional safety equipment, a decline in quality due to reduced visibility and noise.

Several years ago, Schmidt Construction Co. of Colorado Springs repaved a stretch of Interstate 25 near Monument.

“The project didn’t go very well,” said Scott Davis, vice president of the company. “We had traffic backed up for miles and trucks stuck in traffic with everyone else. Today’s traffic levels make it nearly impossible to pave during the day on highways like I-25.”

To weigh the benefits and disadvantages better, CDOT officials will continue studying projects, said CDOT Chief Engineer John Unbewust.

“This supports our decision to continue evaluating projects before we determine the appropriate hours to schedule work,” he said. “We have a responsibility to be conservative with taxpayer dollars, but we must balance that with the cost the public would incur as a result of lane closures and other traffic impacts.”

In general, CDOT will limit paving operations to non-peak and nighttime hours on high-traffic roadways such as interstates or highways in urban areas. In less congested and residential areas, work will continue in the day.

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